New guest editor John Middleton and some news and such!

by Levi Weinhagen • Oct. 14

News and notes |

Happy Ides of October (or roughly thereabouts)!

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The 8th Annual Minnesota SAGE awards for dance are coming up in a few days. It's an opportunity to celebrate the strength and success of Minnesota’s dance community and perhaps see glimpses of some of the year's best performances that may have gotten past you.

The SAGE Awards are on October 17th at 7:30 at the Cowles Center.

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Kickstarter continues to be a successful fundraising tool for a number of performing arts groups and theater projects in Minnesota. I love the idea that this and platforms like it are allowing artists to make projects happen that otherwise may never have had a shot.

Two days ago Public Dreams Theatre successfully funded its production of Peter Nichols’ A Day in the Death of Joe Egg.

The 2012 Twin Cities Horror Fest is about half way to its goal but they have less than four days to reach it.

Stay, Then Go, a feature film by Shelli Ainsworth. This project is very close to reaching its funding goal with less than four days left.

Kevin Horn out of Duluth has five days left to reach his funding goal for the film project Panhandler. This project is of particular note because the funding is for a film but they're only asking for $500.

Have you funded a project using Kickstarter?

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As election day nears there are still several theater projects happening around town that are raising awareness and money for the campaign organized by Minnesota Citizens United for All Families against the proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in Minnesota.

Workhouse Theatre and Flower Shop Project are producing Matthew Everett’s But Not For Love, running now through October 28th at The Warren in Minneapolis

Thirst Theater has one performance left of their evening of short plays performed at the Eat Street Social Club called The No Round. The final performance is Monday, October 15th, at 7pm.

Do you have a show or project that supports the Vote No campaign?

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TheaterMania.com recently ran a review of Cyrano on Broadway. It’s the first of a series they’re calling ”Bro on Broadway." The premise is that they take an average guy who hasn’t seen any theater, send him to a play, and he writes a review of the show.

The first “Bro” tapped is a barback named Josh Macin who they describe as a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu champion who helps guys rewrite their Match.com profiles.

In Macin’s review of Cyrano he writes things like, “What sounded like animal noises eventually became recognizable words only after I realized every line was a rhyme. Rhyme. ‘What could be worse than a play in verse? Do you think I'll be reimbursed?’ That's f***ing annoying, right?”

I found the review itself funny to the point that I’m not certain it’s not a bit written as comedy by someone who does know theater.

But perhaps more importantly, Isaac Butler on Parabasis does a nice job of complicating the idea of this premise, calling into question what this kind of gimmick says to actual theater critics.

Parabasis: The Jokes on Who

It also has me wondering if the stereotypes portrayed by the idea of a “Bro” add to the idea that theater and art are elitist.

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Good news, beloved local actor, theater mixologist, and conversation continuer John Middleton will be guest editing Minnesota Playlist for the next several months. Keep an eye out for new articles, essays, and other such loveliness focused on the performing arts in Minnesota.

If you have comments, questions, or suggestions for John, please don’t hesitate to send them using our Contact Form.

Hope you have a week full of new experiences

Thanks
-Levi

Comments

Blog Post Suggestion

"As election day nears there are still several theater projects happening around town that are raising awareness and money for the campaign organized by Minnesota Citizens United for All Families against the proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in Minnesota."

This sounds good in theory, but has anyone asked why? I mean, what's the real reason these companies are raising money for MN United? I think a blog post investigating this would make for a very interesting read.

Ben Thietje

Good idea

I like this idea, Ben

Want to write it?

Levi

Maybe Next Time

Nah. I only do things if there's something in it for me.

Ben Thietje

Bros and Such

Levi, I just read Macin's review of CYRANO and Mr. Butlers commentary on Macins review as well. Both gave me a lot to think about.
Right off the bat I have to say that Macins review cracked me up numerous times. But what I really enjoyed about it was as I read it, how the first play he had ever seen in his 23 years on Earth eventually earned his respect. He went from saying:
"The show started off with a lot of talking. The curtain went up, and a bunch of people onstage dressed like pictures in history books just started talking. I didn't know why, and I couldn't make sense of it"
To:
Cyrano ultimately gained my utmost respect....Christian dies a happy man and Cyrano proves to be selfless. Respect."
He clearly got the story of the play even if he didn't understand every word. And yes, some of what he writes is ridiculous and made me laugh out loud. I realized then, mid-laughter, that maybe I was being elitist at this "bro's" uninformed opinion. Mr. Butler is right in stating that not everyones opinions matter. Ignorance should not be celebrated. Just because you have an opinion doesn't mean I need to respect it. Respect is earned. But at the same time, there can be no denying that theater is seen and can be an elitist form of entertainment. It shouldn't be, but it is.
The opinions I am most interested in when it comes to our work are my peers-actors, writers, etc, and people who have no knowledge of theater whatsoever, like Mr. Macin. Why do I care about hearing what someone who has never seen theater think? Because they come to it a blank slate, not a lot of preconceived notions of whats "right and wrong", no expectations of how things "should" be done, and can just simply sit back and watch. They can give me feedback of how it really effected them, without a lot of pretentious BS.
They watch without nitpicking all the the tiny little things that, to me, actors and other theater people seem to look for so they can criticize a show--tiny errors in pronounciations when actors are using a dialect, if people are using handkerchiefs correctly, performing the verse with the right emphasis. blocking choices, costume and set piece colors, etc. I can't tell you how sick I am of hearing other actors and such rip apart a show for these things and seemingly be nothing but hypercritical. They can't just watch a show, like a normal person. There is a place for these things, and we should strive to do the best work we can, but a theater performance should be engaging and entertaining. If a performance is such then its a success. In reading Macins review, it seemed this production was entertaining and engaging, and that's what I read a review to find out.
Macins review gave me exactly what I wanted when I went to read it. Pure, raw, blank slate criticism from someone who had no clue what was about to happen. Everything was new to him. Every twist in the story was a genuine surprise to him. He had no idea what was going to happen, no knowledge about the story, no assumptions about what was going to happen. The way the balcony scene effected him shows how talented the actors performing the scene must have been if they reached this "bro". Or, as he says:
"In the best part of the whole play, Roxane stood in her tree-house while Cyrano hid below and recited the most disgustingly beautiful lines I've ever heard to her. Christian just stood there useless with him, and I totally believed their plan was working. Roxane was falling for their synergistic game. You could tell. When Christian climbed the ladder of her tree house after Cyrano talked him in, I actually prayed he wouldn't open his mouth and f**k everything up."
He PRAYED that this fictional character wouldn't "f**k everything up". That's awesome! He admits he was moved by the play. That's amazing! I love that.
I also loved that at first he "knew" that Cyrano "wasn't getting laid", but then minutes later realized that "Cyrano was actually a badass alpha dog who could totally get laid." He's right! That's exactly probably what the first audience ever seeing Cyrano thought. He just says it in a different way. Its perfect. He even recognizes himself in Christian when he says:
"Christian not only had terrible fashion-sense, but he couldn't rap to chicks either. So Roxane gave him the whole "I love you but I'm not in love with you" spiel that I've grown accustomed to hearing over the years."
Here is a 23 year old guy in 2012 identifying with a fictional character in the late 1600's or so. It shows how great a play Cyrano is and what good work the actor playing the role did.
Just because Macin isn't the typical theater-goer doesn't mean we should mock him. He's the kind of audience we should be trying to reach. We praise Ten Thousand Things for going to prisons and shelters performing for people who have committed crimes and have never seen shows, actors who have done TTT shows rave about performing for these audiences. So why should Josh Macin be thought of any less? Yes, his language shows he is not exactly a Rhodes scholar (neither am I), but he's a 23 year old guy who is an accomplished martial artist (that's pretty cool) and barbacks. What's wrong with that? He reminds me of the feedback I would get from some of my fraternity brothers when they came to my shows. Sometimes it was "That chick was hot." and sometimes it was insightful like after seeing Angels in America when one said to me
"I never thought about what gay guys must have gone thru back then, I mean they were literally dealing with death around them all the time. That kind of blew me away. Also, that show was really funny too. I've never seen anything like that."
I remember a football player telling me how he liked "Waiting for Godot", I remember a young couple coming up to me 6 months after that same production when they recognized me at the Wal-Mart telling me how they came to 3 of the 4 performances, bringing their parents to the last one and how it was the greatest thing they had ever seen. I remember a teenage girl coming up to me after "King Lear" talking about how she cried at least 4 times during the show it moved her so. These opinions meant a lot to me. They convinced me that theater really can move everyone.
I think sometimes we ARE elitist and we turn off people from our work when we should be inviting them in more and try to be more accessible. Last year I suggested to Robin Gillette that the Fringe reach out to people who have never seen Fringe plays at all and have them write about the experience of it and seeing shows. They did that in a way, and I read his posts here, but "they" chose a person involved in theater to do it. I wish they had chosen someone like Mr. Macin with NO theater background or experience whatsoever. I would have preferred that. Instead I just got another theater persons opinions and to be honest, I wasn't interested or entertained at all by what they wrote. It was more of the same from a theater person, and I get plenty of that all the time.
I have met several "theater artists" here who seem to think their work is more special than others, and that certain shows are beneath them in the way they conduct themselves. It bothers me. That's why I love "Pay-What-You-Can" shows and post-show discussions. They are things that can bring people into theater. One thing I really hope I am accomplishing with my Drinking Game shows is introducing people to some of our great local actors and improvisers like Bethany Ford, Clarence Wethern, Erik Hoover, Jane Froiland, Pat O'Brien, Charles Hubbell, James Napoleon Stone, Heather Meyer, Nick Decker, Matt Kelly, Sarah Broude, Tim Uren, Dawn Krosnowski, Katherine Engel, Angela Fox, Katie Starks, and so many other wonderful people who've done the show. I hope that if they like them performing these roles where they're onstage reading a script, maybe they'll take a chance going to see them in something where they're not reading from a script from a movie they've already seen. I try to encourage audiences after the shows to go and see people in their other work. I mentioned Jane's performance in "Doubt" and both hers and Eriks performances in "Compleat Female Stage Beauty" to the audience after Ghostbusters ADG, and when Jane said "Oh they don't care about that." I replied-"Well they should! These are some seriously talented people up here and you should go see their work!" and also promoted Fringe. Anything that can get people to the theater I support.
Macins review is funny, and Butler is correct in that some opinions matter more than others, but I think that we as theater artists can learn something valuable from both. I know I did.